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Devin Townsend - Empath - CD -

Price per Unit (stuk): €19.95


Overall impressions is that Empath is not one of Devin’s easier listening records. A good way to explain it is to say it contains everything Mr. Townsend has done in his career. Literally everything. It’s a bit like a Best Of Devin Townsend all condensed into a single album. In fact the sheer density of the music can be quite overwhelming at times, even for me. The list of contributors is as long as my arm and it shows. Seriously, Empath has three different drummers on it, each of a calibre that any other artist would give their left nut for as contributors. Hell even the Paddlepop Lion himself Chad Kroeger provides some guest vocals.

Empath starts off with the intro track Castaway in an unusual way. Not with something atmospheric to get you hyped up, but with the lovely relaxing sounds of lapping waves and slide guitar. Makes me want a hammock a strawberry daiquiri.

It goes straight into the next song Genesis and I just have to say…what is this? It goes from 90s rock to musical theatre to melodic death to carnival music all in the one song. It’s got choirs, it’s got strings, it’s got synths, hell at one point I thought I could hear guest vocals from a meowing cat. It has so many musical elements that it doesn’t let any one part breathe and flex. This doesn’t work at all, it’s just too much, it’s like fifteen different songs all struggling to be heard at the same time. If there’s one track on the album that needed a producer to hit Devin with a newspaper and go “No!” it’s this one.

Thankfully the next several songs calm down a lot. The next two, Spirits Will Collide and Evermore, are absolutely glorious. They lift you up with these gorgeous choral voices and make you feel like you could take on the heavens. At times it makes me think of some of the more audacious Queen songs, especially on Evermore where there’s these sections of Devin’s voice layered many many times.

Something that Empath couldn’t be accused of is repetitive. It keeps switching styles and genres so much it’s impossible to get bored. Like on Sprite where it’s a story about a sad orphan bird who goes on a quest to be able to fly. It’s pure magic I tell you. Or on Hear Me where at times it goes full Strapping Young Lad and ramps up the metal to, I dunno, a billion metals. That’s the great thing about a guy like Devin, one minute you’re listening to a song about the evil of the cosmos, then you’re listening to a track called Why? that’s a full blown Rodgers and Hammerstein style musical number that wouldn’t sound out of place in The King And I. This one lets Devin show of his ability to be a vocal gymnast and make all other singers green with envy at the sheer diversity of the guy.

This is a long record, clocking in at 76 minutes, which is pushing right against the upper limit of what a single CD can hold. There’s some real long songs on Empath, with the six part Singularity finishing the album at a whopping 24 minutes. That’s longer than the entirety of You Will Never Be One Of Us by Nails! It’s even got a guitar part by none other than the legendary Steve Vai. Honestly you could do a completely different review just on Singularity, preferably by someone who studied music at an academic level.

In many ways I really, really like this album. It’s so over the top it’s positively flamboyant. Thankfully the song Genesis was my only real complaint about Empath as that song completely lacks structure and could have done with an editor. Maybe some of the other tracks could have benefitted from that same restraint, but they’re otherwise well put together and take you on a real journey of highs and low. Honestly, it’s a little hard to recommend if you’re not already a devotee, as Empath is Devin Townsend at his most Townsendish. I will happily endorse it to any Devin fan though as it truly does condense everything great about the guy into a single enormous package. Hehe, Devin’s big package.

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